The holidays are over, but winter isn’t. Many people start dreaming of a tropical getaway right about now. The cruise lines know that, so this is the time of year when they run lots of sales and promotions to entice you to book a cruise.
Have you been on a cruise? Do you love them or hate them? I know people in both camps. I tend to be in the middle. I have been on six cruises and enjoyed all of them, but I also greatly enjoy land-based vacations. I’ve read that most people want to go on a cruise at least once in their life.
I decided to share my thoughts on the pros and cons of cruises to help you decide whether a cruise is a good vacation option for you.
Pros of Cruising:
Cruises are a great way to see several places in one trip, with minimal unpacking and repacking.
My husband and I went on a Mediterranean cruise in November. The number of amazing places that we got to see in just that one trip simply amazes me: the French Riviera, Monaco, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the statue of David in Florence, ancient Roman ruins, the Sistene Chapel and the Vatican, the ruins of Pompeii, the white buildings and blue domes of Santorini, the Parthenon and Acropolis, the islands of Malta and Mallorca, and the sights of Barcelona. If you have a lot of places on your bucket list, a cruise can be an efficient way to see a bunch of them in one trip. Sightsee by day, and the ship will travel to the next port while you sleep.
Cruises are a convenient option for multigenerational family groups.
We’ve been on two cruises with my husband’s side of the family. Hands down, there is no easier way to get a dinner reservation for 12 people every night than on a cruise. With the variety of activities offered on a cruise, everyone can do what interests them during the day and then reconnect at dinner. Activities such as trivia competitions allow multiple generations to have fun together.
Cruises provide opportunities for kids to try new foods and new experiences and meet people from all over the world.
On my kids’ first cruise, my son ordered escargot for an appetizer one night. I wondered if he knew what he was ordering, and then it hit me: a cruise is a perfect opportunity for kids (and adults) to try new foods. Because the food is included in the price of a cruise, there is no financial risk to ordering something they might not like. Most of the time they did like what they ordered, but if they didn’t, they didn’t have to eat it and could order something else, at no extra cost to us. As the week went on, the kids became more adventurous in ordering off the regular menu instead of the kids’ menu. And, yes, my son did like the escargot!
Shore excursions offer a wide variety of activities and experiences while you are in port. Try snorkeling or scuba diving, go ziplining, view wildlife, and visit cultural and historic sites.
While you are on board the ship, you can meet crew members from all over the world. On some cruise lines, crew members wear name tags that also list the country they come from. My kids loved keeping a list of all the countries that they met people from. I’ve found that most crew members are happy to tell you about their homeland. So, not only do your kids learn about the countries that the cruise visits, but also about many more all over the world.
Cruise lines handle special needs well.
If you or a loved one require a wheelchair-accessible stateroom or have special dietary restrictions or other special needs, cruise lines are usually very accommodating.
Cons of Cruising:
Cruise ships can feel crowded.
While there are many different public spaces on a cruise ship, some are more crowded than others. If the weather is nice on at-sea day, you should expect the pool area to be packed. On my last three cruises, I didn’t use the pool at all. If swimming in a pool is an important part of your vacation, then a cruise might not be the best choice.
Buffet restaurants can also be very crowded at breakfast on a port day. Sometimes it can be hard to find a place to sit. Fortunately, most cruise ships also offer either a sit-down restaurant or room service for breakfast.
Your time in each port is limited.
The tradeoff of getting to see a lot of different places is that you don’t get to see any single place extensively. Don’t expect to experience romantic walks along the beach at sunset–you’ll probably be back on the ship before the sun goes down. It’s harder to be spontaneous with cruises because there is usually only one opportunity to see each port of call, and in most cases, you’ll want to to have your shore excursions planned well ahead of time. While there are some excursions that make the most of every minute in port, if you do that every day, you’ll likely wear yourself out.
Most cruises have extra costs.
While this varies greatly among cruise lines, generally speaking, the cruise fare is only a part of your total vacation expense. Mass market cruises usually include less, while luxury lines include more. Extra costs include expected expenses like airfare and shore excursions, but also onboard expenses that you might not think about, like beverages, Starbucks coffee, specialty dining, internet access, and some ship activities. It is important to budget for these items so that you don’t have surprise expenses on your vacation.
Making the right choice for you
Especially if you are new to cruising, it is important to have the guidance of an experienced travel advisor when deciding whether a cruise is the right vacation for you. A travel advisor can help sort through the myriad of cruise options available and find the right cruise line, ship, and itinerary to suit your specific needs and wants.
If you are interested in having my help planning the ideal vacation for you, please contact me to set up a complimentary consultation. We’ll chat for about 20 minutes or so about your specific needs and then I’ll let you know if I will need to charge a planning fee in order to move forward.